God’s Love for the Loveless – Part 1
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2007|
|Hosea is about the covenant breach of Israel against God. And God is going to use a very unusual illustration to explain this breaking of covenant, this breach of covenant.|
God’s Love for the Loveless – Part 1
This message was recorded at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
I’d like to look with you for the next couple of days to the book of Hosea. And I’ve had a lot of great questions already. Hosea? How are you going to teach Hosea? Well, let’s see if we can figure it out a little bit. If you have a Bible, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, right in that section. The gold edge of your Bible is probably stuck together around the book of Hosea.
Prophets had a hard job. To be a prophet was to be called by God to deliver a message that was going to be unwelcomed. For God to call any of the prophets to go deliver these goods to Israel, generally, was to welcome attacks and abuse and threat, and in some cases, even taking their lives to do the job that God called them to do. You know, we call Hosea a Minor Prophet. Now, that’s not because he’s unimportant or a minor league. Obviously “minor” is the amount of material. A Minor Prophet is a short little book, where a Major Prophet would be like Isaiah or Jeremiah, a tome. And so it’s not the importance of the author; it’s the amount of material we have on the author.
Now Hosea, unlike most Bible books, uses very graphic language. And I’ll talk a little bit about some of this tonight. It might make you a tad uncomfortable. That’s alright. I leave Sunday; you don’t have to like me after I leave. But I want to look at what the text is saying. I want to read a quote from D.A. Carson. It is in your notebook, but to me it is a wonderful distillation of the book. Dr. Garret, D. A. Garret, excuse me, writes,
Hosea is not an easy book. It is a book that jolts the reader. It refuses to be domesticated and conventional. It does comfort the afflicted but it most surely afflicts the comfortable. It is as startling in its presentation of sin as it is surprising in its stubborn certainty of grace. It is as blunt as it is enigmatic. It is a book to be experienced and the experience is with God.
Now, to understand the book of Hosea I want to take you back, and you may want to turn there or just think with me about Deuteronomy 28. Deuteronomy is the second Law giving, of course, and this has to do with what we call the blessings and cursings motif. It is very important to understand this. And many times even well-educated Christians don’t sort of understand, how can God curse or blame or judge a people? He’s loving, after all; He’s altruistic; He’s kind; He’s a big, you know, wonderful teddy bear of a guy. Well, to understand His character it helps to understand some of the pictures we have sometimes that are wrong about who God is.
If you turn to Deuteronomy 28 you will notice, and I want to show you the big picture and look at some details, verse 1: “Now if you faithfully obey.” But if you drop over to verse 15, “But if you do not obey.” So the most casual reader can see there is something going on: if you do this, there’s a long list of things, but if you don’t, there’s a list of long things. In verse 1, “Now if you faithfully obey the Lord your God and are careful to do, or to follow, all His commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will put you far above all the nations.” All these blessings will come and overtake you is the picture. They’ll overrun you, because you obey the Lord your God. “You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country,” and on it goes with this cadence of all these blessings.
Here’s the real simple formula, men and women. If you obey Me I’m going to bless you; I’m going to bless your socks off. It’s going to overtake you.
Now look over at verse 15: “But if you do not obey the Lord your God by carefully following or obeying all His commands and statutes that I’m giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” The language is exactly the same; it’s parallel. And then verse 16: “You’ll be cursed in the city;” notice verse 3, “You’ll be blessed in the city.” Verse 16, continuing, “And cursed in the country;” back to verse 3, “blessed in the country.” And there’s a cadence that goes back and forth. It’s real easy to see. It’s real easy to hear. You’ll be blessed in the city, cursed in the city, blessed in the country, cursed in the country.
And it’s sort of like, well, this isn’t a real hard decision. I mean, if I follow God He’s going to take care of me and exalt us above the nations, keep our enemies at bay, bless our crops, bless our soil, bless our produce. And if we don’t then we can expect a withholding of His blessing and in fact, a cursing or a bringing of other nations to judge us for not following Him, the blessings and cursings motif.
Now, back to Hosea. Let me try to give you a little bit of a beat on the book, because the book is about the covenant breach of Israel against God. And God is going to use a very unusual illustration to explain this breaking of covenant, this breach of covenant. You know the difference between a unilateral covenant and a bilateral covenant? A bilateral covenant, you do your part, I’ll do my part. If you don’t do your part I can kill you; and if I don’t do my part, you can kill me. That’s a bilateral covenant.
A unilateral covenant is the Abrahamic Covenant. God’s declaring, “I’m going to do some things and Abraham, whether you like it or not, I’m going to do them through you. You will be a blessing. These things will happen. You will leave your home, your country, your family. You will go to a land I will tell you. I will do these things and you will be a blessing unto the whole earth.” That’s a unilateral covenant God made with Abraham. Are you with me? A bilateral covenant “if/then,” conditional, okay.
Hosea is a breach of this bilateral covenant. And Hosea in the timeline is at sort of the tail end of Israel and Judah’s power. Now, you know the divided kingdom. Israel is in the north and Judah is in the south. The way I remember that is if you put the alphabet vertically “I” comes before “J”, so Israel’s in the north and Judah’s in the south. And so this divided kingdom was the result of the breakage, the fracture of having kings instead of following God as their one theocratic God and King, and the division between the civil war and all the story of the Judges; you know the Bible well. So this is the end of it. This is the time of prosperity and affluence. And Hosea is called by God to deliver a very graphic message at a time when they’ve broken the covenant again and again and again. And it’s sort of like God’s finally said, “Enough.”
Now the picture of the book is Hosea is going to endure a personal tragedy unlike anything we’ve heard of in the narrative in the Bible until this point. God is going to ask him to align himself to marry a prostitute. And that prostitute is going to betray him and throw herself into the arms of other lovers. And this is such a shocking picture before, that Israel, for the Jewish ear, much less, probably not so much for us today, but certainly culturally it is a tragedy. Gomer is going to betray Hosea’s love; Israel betrays Yahweh’s love. Gomer is pursued and loved by her husband Hosea; Israel is pursued and loved by her husband Yahweh Elohim.
This is a very simple tragedy picture in a small pericopy, in a little way. I want to illustrate this bigger more egregious sin that “I have loved you with a covenantal love. I’ve made covenantal promises. I’ve pursued you. I’ve sent prophets. I’ve done everything I can do for you and you still break the covenant. You still treat Me this and you throw yourself into the arms of other lovers and I will judge you.” That is the book of Hosea. It’s an unconditional love that keeps on keeping on. It’s the grace of God in the New Testament. It’s the lovingkindness of God in the Old Testament. And God’s loyal love chases us down. And sometimes His loyal love will bring judgment. So it’s an uncomfortable book in that regard, but it’s also a hopeful book in that regard.
Now, let’s take a little bit of a side bar here and talk about our lesson for a moment. The book illustrates the personal work of Jesus Christ perfectly. Sunday, our last session together, we’ll look at chapter 3 which is perhaps one of the key chapters in all the Old Testament. And to see the depiction of Jesus Christ, how He is going to buy us back from the slave market, how He’s going to love us when we’re so unlovely. And it’s a wonderful thing that, as you do some of your own study this week, I hope you will start to see some of the imagery of Christ in the book.
Now, the name Hosea, let’s talk about this just a moment. It sounds a tiny bit like Joshua or Jesus. Joshua, of course, means “Yahweh is salvation,” “Yahweh saves.” Jesus, of course, means “salvation.” Hosea is probably the offer of salvation. Where the name Joshua is salvation, the one who saves, Hosea is enough of a word play from the way it’s pronounced that it probably means “here’s the offer,” which is in fitting with the book. God’s doing all He can to love you out of your loveless estate. He’s making you this offer one last time before He allows judgment to crash into your lives.
Three major themes from the book; there’s lots of them. Number one: God hates sin. Now, I know that seems really obtuse and obvious in sort of a duh! But, you know, we live in a culture that doesn’t recognize God or sin. We live in a culture that has turned God into their own image. The Houston Post, July 7, in the religion section had an interesting piece on it. It’s a section with a bunch of different people, “What is the most dangerous idea in religion today?” Listen to, you may remember Rabbi Harold Kushner. You remember his book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People? Listen to what he says:
There is a sense that in order for me to be right everyone who disagrees with me is wrong. It makes religious interfaith cooperation more difficult. If I believe that I have to believe that other people’s religions are worthless and invalid. You have to understand, religion is not about getting information about God. Religion is about community.
Well, I didn’t know that. I thought religion was about doing the right thing to get to a holy God. I didn’t know it was about community. Then why can’t we all just get along?
The primary purpose is not to get us to heaven, but to put us in touch with other people. I have a fierce loyalty to my family without denigrating other people’s families. I can have a fierce loyalty to my own religion without denigrating other people’s religion.
And I’ll stop there, because I’ll start to get a little ill. We’ve so lost the reservation of who is God, what is God, why is God, much less the notion of what’s a sin. I often tell the students, don’t let the world teach you theology. And we get so much information from the world that even pretty good card-carrying Christians start thinking, well, maybe the world’s right and maybe we should change this and cave. Everyone else is doing it after all. God hates sin.
Number 2: Judgment is certain. Again, we’ve sort of lulled ourselves to sleep. I was reading Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, which is a marvelous book. And in the book he addresses the whole issue of America was in such a place that nothing could happen to us. And as the war broke out, you remember the Japanese admiral’s comment when they bombed Pearl Harbor, “We will awaken the sleeping giant.” There was an understanding in those days these were bad guys and these are good guys. And we don’t have those definitions anymore. It’s very complicated.
Judgment is a thing that’s so foreign from our thinking. God will judge the righteous and the unrighteous. There are five, maybe seven judgments in the Scripture, depending on how carefully you study or divide them, but we know the different levels of judgment. For example, the judgment of the wicked and the good; the evil and the righteous. Judgment is certain.
Third and last as the major thing: God’s love awaits the sinner. Are you familiar with the term hessid? It’s three little consonants in Hebrews, hsd, hessid, and it’s variously translated in your Bible’s as “lovingkindness” in the New American Standard, as love or justice or kind or mercy in most other English translations. Lovingkindness is a cumbersome word and I kind of like it for that reason. “Lovingkindness” means two things: God loves to be loyal to His chosen people and His covenant promises; His chosen people and His covenant promises. Say it with me: His chosen people and His covenant promises. I put them in “c-p” so I can mess them up and you can remember them. His chosen people and His covenant promises.
When God chose Israel as a people, did He choose them because they were better than everybody else? No, they’re an obstinate, stiff-necked stubborn people. It’s almost like they were worse than everybody else, but He chose them.
And He loves to be loyal to His covenant promises, the things He says, “I love to do this.” Now we think of loyalty in the terms of a dog that wags his tail when we come home, an animal we can ignore for days on end and call his or her name and they come running with glee and joy. And we say it’s loyal. No, it’s really pretty stupid. You can ignore the poor beast, not feed it for days on end, and then when you decide to give it attention it loves you. That’s pretty dumb if you think about it. I remind Cindy their brain is the size of a walnut. Think about it. God is not loyal in that sense. God is loyal to His character. God is loyal to His word. He is loyal to what He says about Himself. He is loyal to His chosen people and His covenant promises. Hessid love is the closest thing to grace we have in the Old Testament.
Alright, God hates sin; Judgment is certain; and God’s lovingkindness awaits the sinner. A lot of other themes in the book: Sin is mentioned 150 times in the book. About half of them refer to idolatry. Little tiny book; it’s a lot about sin. On the up side we have positive themes of redemption. We have justice, God’s love, His mercy and His grace.
Now, when you study a book like Hosea or any Old Testament book, you kind of scratch your head and say, how do we apply this stuff, because this is Old Testament and it’s before grace and it’s before Christ on the cross? We kind of get lost in this. Let me give you three concepts to keep in mind when you study any Old Testament book.
Number 1: Am I distinct from the culture? For the Old Testament believer the Yahweh-fearing Jew was to be called apart from the culture he or she was in. They were not to be like the other peoples. They weren’t to intermarry. They weren’t to glom on to their idols, right. They weren’t to do what those cultures did, because they were God’s chosen people. And as believers in Jesus Christ we need to ask ourselves, how are we distinct from the culture?
Now, I actually worry about this kind of stuff. Would anybody look at my life or yours and say you’re different? A generation ago it was pretty clear. But today, because we live in such a difficult culture that feels like it hates Christians most of the time, that we’re marginalized, ridiculed, made fun of, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes we bring it on ourselves, but how are we distinct? And the young men and women who are in their 20’s and younger, they’re living on a knife edge that we didn’t live on, those of us who are over 50. They live so close to the edge of sin it’s, they think they can take fire into their chest and not be burned. And there’s sort of an arrogance about what they can do and not really sin. And in the process of that we start looking so much like the culture.
I’ve had fine Christian young men and women ask me some of the most amazing questions. Is abortion really wrong? Is it really wrong? I mean, can you really know for sure? The sanctity of life is pretty clear, but the culture has so pressed them down they’re in an environment where nothing supports what they believe and before long they tolerate everything.
So the cultural context in which we live: how are we distinct from our culture? I don’t want to be a Bible-beating lunatic, fundamental, you know, nutcase, but I want to be in the world, not of it, right. And you need to ask that question a lot, especially if you’re in a context where you’re around a lot of people that don’t yet know Christ.
Number 2: Keep in mind that culture in this process has become the authority and replaced our biblical theology. And I’ve already mentioned this, but to remind you, as we study these polls we find again and again Christians are not that much different from the world in their views about politics and life and death and euthanasia, infanticide, abortion. There’s very little differentiation between what the Christian mind thinks today and what the world thinks today, or at least American mind.
And third: Holiness, not merely happiness is God’s goal for your life. God is in the process of transforming you and me into what we’re not, not just making us happy. My personal thesis is the American dream is so much a part of our thinking, if we’ve been raised in the West, that if you were to take the idea of prosperity and blessing and a home and a car and a lake house and a jet boat or whatever it is you want; if you were to take those pieces of thread out of your picture of American Christianity your Christianity might just unravel in front of your eyes. It’s so tight in the warp and the weft of our thinking that if we do these things God’s entitled to bless us.
And that’s where the greatest generation, those of you who are in your 70’s and 80’s, your thinking is different than ours. You get this better than we do. And that’s one of the things that’s lost in our generational concept; it’s not about happiness for the believer in Christ, it’s about holiness.
Well, I’ve preached; let me teach. Let’s look at the first 9 verses tonight. And the first verse is God’s word to Hosea. Hosea 1:1. He finally got there; okay, let’s look at it. “The word of the Lord which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.”
First of all this: all we know about Hosea is his daddy’s name. That’s all we know about him. It doesn’t matter to speculate. What we do know from this verse is we have a time stamp. You know, when you get your email you can tell what time your friend sent it to you by the time stamp on it. You can also go in and look at the data and see exactly when it was written, when it was edited. There’s a time stamp that says, okay, that email came out. Well these verses give us a really important time stamp. We’ve named these kings in Judah and the kings in Israel, so we know that this occurs across the span of the 8th century BC. It’d be like saying during the reign of Clinton and Bush; you know, there’s a time stamp there. And that’s exactly what the writer, God through the Holy Spirit, has given us. The word of the Lord came at this time to Hosea.
Now this again is a time of affluence, of great wealth and prosperity. The Assyrians were under the reign of Tilgath-Pilneser or Pilneser. The Assyrians had defeated Israel. They were going to be deported. And between about 745 and 727 these events are happening. Hosea is prophesying at the high point of Israel’s affluence, but right before it’s about to fall apart.
I don’t know what you think of the chatter right now. Michael Chertoff said the other day he felt in his gut there was something going to happen. The buzz in the internet and what they’re picking up and monitoring, different terrorist cells and groups, they think there’s sort of a rebuilding of al-Qaida and there’s this imminent feeling that something bad could happen. We have it of course in the UK recently, a number of very specific events we can point to. We had the thing in JFK not long ago. We sort of wonder what’s next, and so our government knows in Homeland Security, study these things, and they say it feels like there’s this thing coming.
I think that would be a good emotional analogy for the group Hosea’s speaking to. You’re in an affluent context. The stock market’s up today higher than what, 2000 I think it hit today. Everybody’s excited in the financial realm. We’re sort of getting bowed back up again. We’re all feeling pretty good. You know, it’s a pretty day outside. But there could be some really unpleasant people plotting some really nasty things. And if we had another 9/11 event of some kind how would we feel? And it’s that sort of precarious nature of the affluence of the culture of Israel.
Derek Kidner writes, “With wealth had come increasing decadence.” By the way, Derek Kidner writes on wisdom literature in the Old Testament. The bookstore has his book on Hosea. It’s a tremendous little commentary. He writes on the Psalms, on Proverbs, on Ecclesiastes. Anything Derek Kidner writes I buy. He’s a wonderful Cambridge, Old Testament scholar, and he writes for simple people like me. It’s really easy to read. He says a lot in a sentence. “With wealth had come increasing decadence.”
Now the first phrase of the book says, “The word of the Lord.” Some of your Bibles will translate the word “Lord” using a capital “L” and then small capital letters for “o-r-d.” Now that takes us to the word Yahweh in most of your translations devices. The word of the Lord. I want you to drop down to verse 2 for a moment: “When the Lord first spoke.” So the word of God comes through Hosea to the audience of Israel.
And sometimes I read over these verses so quickly I miss some of the most obvious things. Do you realize, as my professor Dr. Hendricks would say, this is not what God would say if He was here? It is what God is saying because He is here. It’s God’s Word. This is not some sort of some odd eccentric prophet’s penmanship. This is God speaking. You know I often encourage the kids, this is Moody Bible Institute I tell them, It’s not Moody; it’s Moody Bible Institute. This is the very living word of Yahweh. And sometimes you and I just sort of scan over this stuff and miss the most obvious things. God spoke to Hosea through Hosea in these words.
You kind of wonder—not that this would happen today; I think the prophecy is complete—but if you had a prophet named Will who stood up and spoke for God, would we stone him? Would we run him out on a rail? Would we exegete him? I’d exegete him. I’d be just like the scribe and Pharisee, “Well, you know, in the original language it says this.” “Where’s he from? Can anything good come out of that part of the country?” I mean, we’d take it apart.
We’re not any different than the Jew. We should be; perhaps with the Holy Spirit we are. This is God’s Word. I want to dust off your thinking for just a little bit here. This is not an old, old book. If it is, forget about it. If it’s a bedtime story forget about it. If it’s a man’s word that’s been sort of reactive over time and added to and subtracted, forget about it. But if it is the very word of God—and I believe it is—and if it’s from the sovereign King of the universe—and I believe it is—how do you respond to it?
The revealed word of God is all you and I need to live and breathe until we die. Now that’s sufficient for all manner of life. It doesn’t tell me how to repair my lawnmower. It doesn’t tell me if I have a growth what to do with it. An MRI would reveal that. But this Book gives all you and I need to live a faithful life, no matter what our circumstances may be, until we walk across that threshold to the next life. But do we live that way? Am I more eager to be in the Word for a half hour or an hour each day or to watch my favorite news show or American Idol or CSI or House or whatever it is I’m into? And I often wonder what would it take for me to know God spoke and that’s enough?
The word of the Lord came to Hosea, and the Lord spoke through him. The word of God to Hosea. Verse 2, we have the command to Hosea: “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.’” The first commandment was for him to marry a harlot. Now, I don’t know what you think of the message. I think it’s interesting. I don’t know that I would use it as a study Bible, but I think it’s interesting to read.
And this is how Eugene Peterson renders this verse. “Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: The whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to Me.” Now, if I just offended a bunch of you I’m sorry, sort of. The word “whore” is only three times in the English text. It’s four in Hebrew so I spared you one. But in the ancient eastern culture this was a woman who provided services for pay. That’s what the term means.
Now this obviously has caused a lot of discussion over the decades of Christianity. It’s a provocative phrase, number one. God said, God spoke, go marry a whore. Wait a minute! Time! The Levitical Law prohibits such things. You can’t do this. God wouldn’t act against His character, and on and on the arguments go. So much so that John Calvin said it was a parable. Others thought—and this probably has the most attraction and appeal—that Hosea marries a woman who becomes a prostitute. And that sort of visages our little, you know, provocative indication there. Some explain it away entirely. Some believe Gomer was a literal prostitute, which I do, and that creates a huge moral dilemma. How can God tell a prophet to marry a prostitute?
Well, remember, in miniature this personal tragedy that Hosea experiences is what the nation has done to Yahweh Elohim. I’ve chosen you as My covenant people. I’ve made promises to you. We might say I’ve, you know, bent My neck over for you, and this is the way you treat Me? Let Me show you what it’s like. And so He does this horrible thing. He says you’re going to marry a whore. You can’t do that. Well, that’s what I want to do. Again, Derek Kidner says in miniature, “What God had done lovingly to His chosen people who had a history of roving eye. So they’re always whoring after their nations.”
Well, the second command was for him to have children by this harlot. And by the way, if you differ with me you can differ with me. I’m not going to fall on my sword for any of the above opinions. But I do think he marries a literal prostitute, and I’ll show you why. Verses 3-5: “So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the Lord said to him, ‘Name him Jezreel; for yet in a little while, I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
“Jezreel” means God’s sows, not sew as in needle and thread, but sow as in seed. Now, Jezreel is a place name. And if you know your Bible well you know that 2 Kings 9 and 10 tells the story of Jehu, where Jehu goes in and he massacres the house of Ahab. It’s a great long story you can read on your own. The problem is that Jehu probably was sort of blood lustful. Jehu probably took it over the top. Instead of just going in and dealing with it, he sort of found joy in it and he was sort of what I’d say a butcher in away and he went further than God intended him to do. You know you’re not supposed to cheer at your enemies defeat, right? You’re not supposed to celebrate when your enemy loses. And the text suggests that he went too far. And so that pending judgment then is going to culminate in this illustration of Hosea to Gomer in Israel to Yahweh. It’s going to be like Jezreel.
Now the name “Jezreel” needs a little unpacking too. When we think of atrocities we might think of Dachau. We might think of Bosnia or Slovenia. We might think of Darfur. If you were a politician from Germany or Darfur would you name your child Dachau? Would you name your child Darfur? No, because these are egregious massacres. And so when He says, name your child Jezreel it, what? Time! You don’t name your child Dachau. You don’t name your child al-Qaida. This is ridiculous. This is an affront to our ears.
That’s the point. The trickery and the blood lust of Jehu is synonymous with Jezreel to the Israeli ear, to the Hebrew ear. And of course you wouldn’t do that. I want you to name your child the name of genocide. I want you to name your child an insulting name, Jezreel.
Now verse 5 says, “Break the bow.” It’s a phrase that really means the bow is God’s strength. You think of a bow and arrow; it’s God’s strength that protects Israel. And we’re going to break the bow of our enemy. So, again, in our terminology we might say, “Dear Lord, please break the bow of the terrorists.” After 9/11 some of us in this room were in the Washington DC area when that occurred, and it just rocked our world. Some lost people we knew in the church, a number of churches up there did, and it just rocked our world.
And I remember praying the next Sunday in church, “God, if our enemies will not repent then stop them from hurting us.” That was my prayer. If they won’t repent then stop them. As a believer in Jesus Christ, that Christ loves the world and all the sinners in it, there’s a part of me that says we’ve got to present the gospel. We’ve got to show them the love of Jesus Christ, even to our enemy, but, God, if they’re not going to repent or trust in Christ or come to You, whatever term you want to use, stop them. Now you may think that’s a horrible prayer. Some in our church did. I said, well, come up with a better one. What are you going to do? I’m going to pray that God will stop me from hurting people. Break the bow of the terrorists.
But did you notice the verse? Look at verse 5: “I will break the bow of Israel.” Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! That’s got you too, Hosea. You’ve got it wrong. You’re supposed to break the bow of the Assyrians. No! God’s going to break the bow of Israel. You think I’ve protected you; I have. You think you’re secure in that protection; You were. I’m going to name this child Jezreel to remind you of the bloody footprints of Jehu, and I’m going to break your strength.
So it’d be like what? This would be like saying, “Dear God, stop the United States Homeland Defense from ever succeeding and let the terrorists succeed. Amen.” That’s the prayer. “Break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel,” in the place in those bloody tracked footprints. And you know what? God did break the bow of Israel, and you can read about it in 2 Kings 15, when the Northern Kingdom is taken away by the Assyrians. Divided kingdom Israel in the north, Judah in the south and it’s dismantled by the Assyrians.
Verse 6: “Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to him, ‘Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I will ever forgive them. But I will have compassion on the house of Judah.” Israel’s in the north and Judah’s in the south. Notice what He says. “I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel [the northern kingdom], that I would ever forgive them. But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the Lord their God, and will not deliver them by the bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen.” “Lo-ruhamah” is no compassion. The word “lo” in Hebrew means no, and it’s stuck on the word “compassion.” There’s to be no compassion.
Now a careful Bible student, if you look in verse 3 it will say “She bore him a son. She bore him a son.” So if Gomer is a prostitute, which she is and he marries her, then she bears him a son. But if you look at verse 6 it says “She conceived again.” The pronoun for “he” is conspicuously, conspicuously absent. It doesn’t say she conceived and bore him a daughter. Now, I may be reading too much into the text, but—and you don’t want to be bull dogmatic about a pronoun—but it does seem to suggest this is somebody else’s child. And it would fit in the context of the story of Gomer, that she throws herself in the arms of other men. It would fit in the context if she was a prostitute, that she would get pregnant by another man. And it also fits in the context of the name, “I have no compassion on this one. This one ain’t mine. This is somebody else’s by an immoral tryst.”
It’s a shocking expression. Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb?” Of course not, the expected answer. What mother can let her son or daughter cry? We have four children. They’re all unique, and they’re all different. And each one of those children has gone through things in their lives where I would happily take the pain. One of my children had to have some medical tests done and I had to restrain this child while this technician performed this test, and the technician was having a very bad day. My child, as I’m restraining this child, is screaming to me, “Daddy, make her stop! Daddy, make her stop! Daddy, make her stop!” I wanted to take a piece of assorted tubing and wrap it around that technician’s neck, you know. I mean, I had no compassion on that technician. I would have taken that test 50 times for my child, right. Which person in here wouldn’t for your son or daughter?
This passage says no compassion. No, you can’t name a child “no compassion.” The intrinsic value of a baby is you have compassion, you care, you nurture, you nurse, you cuddle, you clean, you keep them warm and safe and cool and all the things you as a mom or a dad, right. No compassion.
The words to our ear fall flat, but it’s the character of God to have a parental love and compassion more than you and I have for our children. Exodus 34:6, “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.’” The very nature of God is compassion. And you’re saying name this child “No compassion.”
Because of the ongoing sin, God’s compassion towards Israel is going to end for a time. Southern Judah, the kingdom will receive some of God’s compassion and they will be delivered, but not by military might. Look at the verse again. He says, “You won’t be delivered by bow, sword, battle horses or horsemen.” I’m going deliver them so they’ll know that I’m their God and again that’s the 2 Kings chapter 19 passage.
Verse 8: “When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said, ‘Name him, Lo-ammi.’“ “Lo,” again is this prefix for “no,” no-ammi “for you are not My people and I am not your God.” “Lo-ammi” simply means not my people. It means not fathered by Hosea. This is the third child, and there seems to be even more distance than the second child. The first one says she bore him. This one says she bears or has a child. This one goes on to say not My people. She conceived and gave birth to a son. So there’s even more distance between the second and the third.
In the ancient covenant in Leviticus 26:12 we read, “I will also walk among you and I will be your God, and you will be My people.” God’s saying, “You are My people. I’m going to prove Myself to you through the sacrificial system. I’m going to prove Myself to you through the Levitical priesthood. I’m going to prove Myself to you through all these flocks and herds. I’m going to demonstrate that I’m God and I walk among you.” And now He’s saying, “You’re not My people.”
The even more jarring and chilling part of this is, what does the name Yahweh mean? What does it mean? What does Yahweh mean? I AM, more than likely, so-called tetragrammaton. When Moses asked this burning bush noise, it tells him to go to Pharaoh. He says, “Who shall I say has sent me to Pharaoh?” And it’s a great story in there, where Moses dodging out of this thing. You know, it’s just a wonderful story. God’s going to use him no matter what. “Well, who do I say sent me?” “Tell them I AM!” I am.
Now, if it means “I am”—and I think it does; the modern Hebrew scholarship is dismantling this view, but they’re probably wrong—if “Yahweh” means I am, it’s what we call a self-revelatory nature: “I am. What more do I need to say?” And when Jesus does the seven “I ams,” each would fit in a time of miracle, in a context of a person. I am the Light of the world; blindness, miracle, all these type of things. I am the living water, all these things, I am, I am, I am, I’m the way, the truth and the life. I’m the good shepherd. I’m the door. All these pictures, Jesus Christ is being self-revelatory to an audience with a very powerful object lesson. And then, I’m the resurrection and the life, of course, is the culmination of the I AM, I AM. So this is relating, I believe, back to the tetragrammaton, “Tell them I AM sent you.”
Now, all that to say, look at the last part, “I am not your Yahweh.” What’s He saying? He’s saying, “You think I am. Let me give you your name. I am not I AM to you, because you’re not My people. You’re not My people. My people wouldn’t act this way. My people wouldn’t live this way. I am not I AM to you because you’re not you are to Me. Don’t call Me I AM. You’re not My people.” Yahweh is distancing Himself from them. I mean, this would set the pious religious covenant long Jew, it would set them on their heels. “Not My people; I’m not thinking about you.” The covenant-keeping God has said, “I don’t know who you are. You don’t have My name because you sure don’t look like Me.”
When I was about 16 my dad gave me this little plaque that has the name “Easley” on it. It’s one of these places where you get your name engraved, you know. It’s got the little poem on it. And it’s something about, you know, all I’ve got to give you is my name. And it’s a little ditty of a poem, about, you know, I don’t have this or that, money, but I’m giving you my name. I’m giving you my name. You’re an Easley.
I’ve told my kids when they go through that learning how to tell the truth stage—I know none of your children have those problems—I say, you know what? Easleys don’t lie. If you’re an Easley, you don’t lie. And let me explain this to you. When you do lie, you’re going to wish you hadn’t lied. And if you perpetuate the lie you’re going to wish even more you hadn’t lied. And the longer you do this the more painful it’s going to be, because Easleys don’t lie. And you have my name now, son. You have my name now, young lady, and you don’t lie. And when you go to school and when they see you in church and when they know you’re my son or my daughter they say, that’s an Easley, I can trust them. Now, I hope that all happens for all four of my kids.
God says you’re not My people. You don’t look anything like My people because My people wouldn’t do this. A couple lessons, number 1: we need to remind ourselves of the gravity of God’s warnings. In this tolerant culture in which you and I exist, in which our children and grandchildren exist, the warning signs have gotten turned down so much, the volume is turned way down. Warnings are irrevocable as long as we’re ready to repent. I don’t know that it’s true. I heard years ago there was a story, a sign in some university that had a laser laboratory, and the sign said, “Warning! Do not look at laser with remaining eye.”
We’d do well to heed God’s warnings. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ and you’re fooling around with sin, you know, you got that thing in the back of your head. You’re conscience, the Holy Spirit of God, whatever it is saying, “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger, Will Robinson. Don’t go here! This is a bad thing.” God’s warnings are very important.
And the warning is not a judgment, the warning is a warning. Pay attention. I often think about God, the sovereign God, looking down on our puny little existence. Whenever I fly I have this strange imagination, and I look down on these houses when we’re coming to land in Asheville. Of course, when you’re up high they’re just little tiny specks. And I like to see the first time I can see a car or something moving, and I go, there’s a human being in that. And that human being, from as high as I am to me, is smaller than a pin dot right now. Now, think about the Sovereign of the universe looking down on His creation. Why does He care about a bunch of little pin dots? I mean, we’re infinitesimal to this sovereign being.
I think about God on top of a building. There is this little two-year-old boy in the street playing with a ball and he kicks the ball and it goes out. And around the corner God can see a car coming unbridled in its speed down that alleyway as that little boy goes out to get that ball. And God takes a bullhorn and says, “Stop and wait!” The boy can’t see a thing. He just hears the voice. God sees what’s coming around the corner. Will the boy listen to his father? And when the word of God warns you there’s a truck coming, there’s a maniac coming down the alley. There’s the consequence of sin breathing down our neck, and He says, “Stop a minute. Just stand there for a minute and hold out.”
What’s He warning you? And His warnings are from a good, kind, loving God, not a malevolent God with a hammer waiting for you to go in the street and clobber you. “I told you it was in the corner, boom. Now, how do you feel now? Better? If you’d have obeyed Me you wouldn’t have gone that route.” No, that’s not how God does it. We may think He does it that way, but that’s not His character. He’s compassionate. He’s ready to forgive. He’s patient. He’s longsuffering.
I know none of you do this, but I often judge people. Hey, God, why don’t You nuke that person in a Christian sort of way? Why don’t You deal with him or her? I mean, You’re going to let them go with this? Why do the wicked prosper, the psalmist asked? And then I hear that slow thing in the back of my head that says, “I don’t hammer you every time you sin. In fact, I rarely hammer you when you sin. I might make you a little miserable to bring you back to Me. But I don’t edict out My judgments every time you do something wrong. If I did you’d be dead a long time ago.”
Secondly, unbelievably, God loves the loveless. And this really is the message of the book of Hosea. How can He love someone who does these things? How can a husband love a wife who’s living in prostitution, having children, I would argue, from other men? How can he love her? It’s unconscionable that you could love a person like this. Man is sin bent.
“Go take a prostitute as a wife and have children of prostitution.” This is exactly what God says when He loves Israel: I’ve chosen a bride. I’ve loved her. She’s betrayed Me and she’s thrown her life into the arms of other lovers.
When we go to church on Sunday morning we pass a place where there’s generally a homeless man who is walking up and down. He’s disabled. He’s unkempt. And he’s got a little box of some kind and he’s begging. And my youngest daughter has got huge compassion for people, and it so upsets her. She will think Sunday morning about, are we going to see that man before we drive to church? And for whatever reason, the way this little kid’s wired, she just makes Cindy and me totally guilty because we can just put our little blinders on and go, sorry, and go on to church. And she just says, “Mommy, we can’t just drive by. We have to do something for him. Give him some money.” I’m going, “He’ll just buy booze and drugs. Why do we give him money,” you know, being a good Christian dad. And she just shames us into, you know, just doing something. So Cindy, you know, makes a sack lunch for the guy sometimes. He didn’t want food. He wants money. But I think about God loving me; I’m no better than that guy. And I’m here to tell you, nor are you. And He loves the loveless.
I had a friend that went through a pretty hard divorce. The wife had an affair. She blamed him for the way he treated her, that threw her into the arms of this other man. I’m not saying my friend was a good and perfect husband. I think they both had challenges and struggles, but they divorced and she remarried this man and had a child not long after. My friend who went through the divorce and remained single for many, many years, was a broken man. He was the top of his class. He had a nearly 4.0 in his field. He had an exceptional job and his life just crumbled after his divorce. It just broke his heart. And I remember talking to him on many occasions trying to encourage him and love him and just nudge him along a little bit.
And he said, “You know, Michael, to think about my wife in the arms of that man when we were still married, still makes me ill.” And he says, “I have to deal with her the rest of my life because we have children together. And every other weekend and every time I go on vacation or she needs me to keep them or I want to take them, every time I’ve got to see her. And every time I’ve got to see that child and every time, a lot of times I’ve got to see that man. I failed. I failed as a husband. I failed as a father.” There are no words to take that away. There’s no verse on a piece of paper and pat him on the back and pray for him that’s going to absolve him of that hurt, right.
And that’s not measurable with the way God loves you and me. We’re not any good men and women. We’re depraved broken creatures who are bent on sin and self, and He loves you and He loves you. How does He love us? Does He overlook our sin? Does He wink and say, oh, being a prostitute isn’t that bad? No, He pursues. He loves. He speaks tenderly. He will judge us if we go too far off the reservation. He will bring discipline, maybe a better way of saying it. So He’s going to put His Son on the dock for us.
I’ve got four kids. I love them like crazy. I’d do anything for any one of them. Sometimes they drive me crazy, but I still love them like crazy. And whether it was the medical test this one child went through, or anything else they would need, I think I would die for any of my kids. I don’t think I’m a great person. I just think I’m like any parent. I would die for any of my four kids. If God came to me and said, “I’m going to take Devin or you,” I’d say, “No debate, God. I’m ready to come see You. Devin’s got a lot of life left.” If He came to me and said, “I’m going to have one of your daughters abducted and abused and brutalized or you can do it,” I don’t even have to think about that one. “I’m here, God.” “I’m going to take Cindy out or you out.” Well, let me think about that. “Okay, I’ll die for Cindy.” I would die for my family without thinking about it. I’d die for a friend. I have a couple friends that I think I would die for. I love them like brothers and sisters in Christ, and I think if God asked me you or them, I think I would.
Now maybe I wouldn’t, maybe I’d flinch, but I hope, I think, I would. But I wouldn’t give any of my four children for anybody I know. And God gave His only Son for you. The only one. He loves the loveless, not one who’s a little better, not one who’s not on the street begging for booze money, not one who’s going to church on Sunday with a coat and tie on. He loved the loveless and He sent the most loved because that’s the only way He can love the likes of you and me.
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we do well to remember how unlovely we were. We need to remember we are Jezreel, a bloody tract, guilty party, that we are Lo-ruhamah, we have no compassion deserving Your attention, that we are Lo-ammi, we’re not Your people. We don’t act or look or live like Your people. But in the person and work of Jesus Christ You loved the unlovely. Break our hearts to love You well. In Jesus’ name, amen.